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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  November 23, 2013 7:00pm-9:01pm EST

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[video playing] >> the sick man of europe as it had come to be known. she refused to accept the decay was inevitable and the job of the british government was to manage decline. britain, she believed, could do better.
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>> some seem to believe that people have been -- [inaudible] state computer. we believe there should be individuals. [inaudible] however much the socialist may pretended otherwise. we believe everyone has the right to be unequal but to us every human being is equally informed. >> while she had no shortage of critics. >> the prime minister -- [inaudible] i detest every single one of her domestic policies. >> the honorable gentleman knows i have the same contempt for his socialist politics with the people of east europe. >> she was secure in her faith that her vision was right. [inaudible] it's about how much of your money should be sphent by the state. and how much you should keep to
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spend on your family. if the state was to spend more, it can only do so by -- taxing you more [inaudible] someone else will pay that someone is you. >> she knew what ronald reagan knew. that free market and free people are the best defense against territorial-type any. and peace comes through strength not accommodation. >> this is -- [inaudible] believe he can achieve his objective at the acceptable price. >> america now stand in a cross roads. one path leads to deficit, decreasing influence, and decline. the other, a renewed american dream we all want. >> mr. chairman, people want to live in peace.
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real, lasting peace. the peace that comes from independence of the state and being able to run your own life, spend your own money, and make your own choices. and above all, the peace of a country which is properly dependented against any potential adversary. >> as we take stock of our choices, the legacy of britain's ironly i did remains a steadfast guide. [applause] that's hard follow. just an incredible lady, and i had the honor of working for her several years before i moved to the heritage foundation in 2002. it was a tremendous privilege just to be in her presence.
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one of the truly great figures of our time. and from a young age, actually, i was u a huge admirer of margaret thatcher. as a student in high school i campaigned actively, actually, for lady thatcher. and i worked on numerous elections -- election campaigns for the british conservative party. as a graduate student, at yale, i had a massive poster of margaret thatcher on my wall. as you can imagine, of it unusual in a place like that. and students would come from all over campus just to see it. [laughter] and i still have that poster. it's absolutely fantastic. i think i one took it to lady thatcher herself to see to sign. and also, for a dream come true when i had a phone call after i
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completed my doctrine in history, asking if i would be interested in coming in for an interview at lady thatcher's private office. and this was over a decade ago now, and margaret thatcher was working on her final book. she needed someone to assist her with that book. and i so went in for an interview with lady thatcher's steve -- chief of staff. and her chief adviser. and the first interview went very well, fortunately. i was invited back for a second interview, with the iron lady herself. this was a truly daunting experience but also exciting experience. i spent 45 minutes being interviewed by margaret
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thatcher. she used to say she would decide within 30 seconds whether she liked someone or not. she formed instant opinions about people and would decide almost on the spot whether she trusted somebody. and so going in to this kind of, you know, job interview, as you can imagine, was quite extraordinary. fortunately, i think she liked me. and i was given the job. she had actually read very closely a book written by my adviser paul kennedy. and during the interview, i mentioned kennedy she said, yes, i know that. i know, that book. and she immediately got off her chair, and she went over to a bookcase in the corner to find the book. she literally went down on her
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hands and knees looking for this book. and she pulled out, firstly, another book written by a senior figure in the conservative party at the time. i won't name him. she pulled out the book and said i don't like that man. she flew the book across the room. she pulled out the book then she showed it to me. she had actually marked every page of the book. she used to go through books with a pen just like this here, actually. and she would write noteds all over them. fortunately, she liked this book and i got the job. so i had the good fortune of working with lady thatcher's private office in london, which is not far from victoria station. ironically opposite the german embassy. she had strong opinions about
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the germans. and it was really actually a very small intimate office, actually. there only three of us on the private staff of lady thatcher's office on the political side. in addition there were a couple of secretaries. she had a assistant who was featured in the iron lady team. she had a security team and sir dennis had his office around the corner. he was affectionately known as dt. we would refer to lady thatcher as lady t. that's how we would traces her. she was actually her -- i have to say, a remarkably humble and kind person despite being one of the most famous
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figure of our time. but at the same time she was the, you know, she was the maryland monroe of the -- she was a prominent terrorist target. the doors were extremely thick and heavy. very difficult to open. but every time she used to get out of her car, crowds would gather, heads would turn, and, you know, she was really like a movie star. one of the most recognizable faces in the world. and the same went for any of her visits to the united states or europe. everywhere she went she was mocked by crowds of people. you wanted to get a glimpse of her you wanted to shake her hand. even with that tremendous fame,
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she was always very, very humble and kind all the time to her staff. she took good care of her staff and families as well. and, you know, she would treat everybody the same, really. sometimes she would open the front door of her private office, which was very -- of course, officers were very carefully guarded with police by machine guns. sometimes if she heard a knock on the door and in the lobby she would actually open the door. much to the consternation of the police. she would have a chat with the postman delivering the mail. and she talked to the postman about ten minutes or so, and she was that kind of person. she had that tremendous, you know, common touch as it were. she treated everybody as though they were special.
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i had a conversation with her over tea, she liked tea and she liked chocolate biscuits. she was in a cheerful mood. she was very, very calm, collected. it was very clear, i think, that my last meeting with lady thatcher that, you know, she felt she had really had done all she could possibly do for her country, for the sake of
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conservativism, and i felt in the final meeting it might be the last time i would ever see her. unfortunately she passed away in april. i attended the magnificent ceremony for lady thatcher. hundreds of thousand of people lined the streets of london cheering her coffin as it passed through the streets. and following the ceremony, in saint paul, which is a beautifully moving ceremony, as her casket was carried out by members of the britain's armed forces, she loved britain's military. there was a huge cheer from the crowd outside. and the cheer echoed all the way through the cafer -- most british people felt for margaret thatcher.
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and those opposed her policy at least respected the achievement of the iron lady. and she was somebody who, frankly, saved britain from what many thought at the time was terminal decline. she rescued this great nation. she put the great back in to britain. and i just like to talk briefly about her key achievements as prime minister. and, you know, with good reason, she was recognized alongside sir winston church hill, really, as the greatest prime minister of our time. she was the first woman prime minister of great britain. the longest continuously serving prime minister of the 20th century. she won three general elections in a row. she never lost a general election. she implemented a political
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revolution in britain. known as thatcherrism. she was all about small government. it was all about low taxes. it was about really returning power back to people, back to businesses, and away from government. britain in the 1970 was a basket case. it was known as a sick man of europe. it was in such an appalling state it once stated it had to go for a loan from the imf. and you can imagine the humiliation for this great country, a nation it once held sway over a third of the world's surface. and it was broke -- brought literally to the knees by socialist big government policies. margaret thatcher vowed to reverse the policies. she would not accept the idea of british decline. she said i don't believe in decline. i won't accept it.
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i won't tolerate it. decline is simply not what britain is about. but she worked hard, really, as prime minister to improve the life not just of the middle class, the traditional voters for the conservative party, but also the working classes a women. she privatized a large number of state-owned industries. she enabled millions of britains to buy shares in the formerly state owned industries. her government sold off millions of counsel houses, government-owned public housing enabling a whole generation to be able to buy their own home. and many of these people became conservative party voters. she was also a towering figure on the world stage. together with reagan she confronted the might of the soviet sowf --
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soviet empire. it collapsed. she lead britain to victory in the war in 1982. i'll be talking about that later in my talk. it was instrumental in restoring british pride. it reestablished britain as a great warrior nation. and she had faith in the ability of britain's armed forces. that victory was based upon margaret thatcher's rebuilding of britain's armed forces, increasing defense spending off the 1970. if you want to go to war, you have to be prepared to fight the wars by investing years ahead in military capability, otherwise you're simply not going to be able to fight and win the wars. what were the qualities that made margaret thatcher a truly great figure? and these are the qualities that
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i think made thatcher a truly great leader, and which are discussed at length in my book with stephen thompson. above all, margaret thatcher was a conviction politician. you always knew where thatcher stood on issues. there was no middle ground for margaret thatcher. she wasn't interested in consensus building. which she thought was is -- she wasn't interested in focus groups, the latest political fad. she actually didn't pay that much attention to opinion polls. but she didn't like this sort of modern fad for sort of identity politics. she believed in treating people as individuals, regardless of your social background, your race, your color.
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she didn't believe in identifying people. by where they came from. she believed in treating everyone as individuals. i think that was a key part of her success. in 1989, in the speech to the conservative women's conference, she declared "we the conservative party are conviction politicians. we know what we believe. we hold fast to our belief, when elected, we put them in to practice. those are the words of a hugely successful politician. i think there are words that should be heard by in politician today. she also said in 1989 we put never power before principles. principles were always a paramount importance to thatcher. she didn't believe in comprising on the principles. she believed in victorian values what she called victorian vir
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chiewr. she was a firm opponent of the welfare state. she believed in self-alliance and thrift. she not believed in handout but handups. and she relished in her promotion of victorian virtue, even though the victorian era is seen as unfashionable. margaret understood the grassroots like reagan she was not from the metropolitan elite. many in her own party looked down on her and sneered at her when she was originally running for office. she was always view as a radical. someone who rocked the boat. a real outsider. the key reason she got on with reagan the fact that both were real outsiders from outside of the political establishment of their own parties. and like reagan, she came from a humble background. a daughter.
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her family -- she worked in the shop. it it gave her a very good understanding of how to run a small business. throughout her political life she campaigned on bread and butter issues. issues that voters cared about. not artificially manufactured issues. she campaigned on the economy, taxes, law and order, immigration, matters that affect the daily life of ordinary people. she once remarkinged those who seek to govern must be willing to allow their heart and minds to lie ownership to the people. and as i mentioned earlier, she appealed not only to the middle class but the working class. she was a trulies a per rational politician. she believed in giving those who were in a less fortunate situation in society an opportunity to move up the social ladder. she was also an extremely courageous politician. she demonstrated by personal and political courage.
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she was fearless. she once said the courage is what you show in the heart of the battle not at the post mortem. she also remarkinged the ultimate virtue is courage. the ultimate -- the only thing you have left sometimes is courage and fellowship. the irish-republic army tried to blow natcher up. the bomb went off at 2:54 in the morning. she actually just finished working for the day on her speech to be delivered to the conservative party conference. five people were killed. 34 people injured. the bomb narrowly missed her. the police advised her to go back to london. she said no. i'm staying i have to deliver my speech. she went ahead that same morning, delivered her speech and she said to the terrorists, we will hunt you down.
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we will defeat you. we'll never give in to terrorism. she had extraordinary courage. she was an absolutely fearless politician. she also stood on the force to the trade unions who had dpom nateed the british economy in the 1970. she also took on the might of the soviet empire. and in this aspect, she was greatly inspired by the achievement and leadership of churchill, her idol growing up as a young girl. she would listen to churchill's speeches come over the radio. she was greatly inspired by everything that winston church hill stood for. and she was determined to follow in the footsteps of winston church churchill. and courage went hand and hand with her decisivend as we saw with the war.
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it's quite ecstatic nation the record -- extraordinary that thatcher launched a task force of 100 ships and three submarines and 300,000 military personnel in the space of two days. after they invaded the island. she made it clear despite firm opposition from within her own party, her own defense chief she would not accept british tariff being taken. in 74 days they defeated them. it's 300 miles off the coast of argentina. it was extremely dangerous and difficult operation. had the war been a failure it would have brought down the government. she went ahead. she defied the critic and said
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i'm not going give in to those who are weak need. you don't have a stomach for the fight. i'm going fight and win. she did exactly that. margaret was also all about loyalty. chef very loyal to her friends. those who worked with her. thatcher-reagan policy was all about loyalty. two great leaders standing short of the shorter on the world stage. when she first met ronald reagan, formally in the mid 1970s reagan had expected the meeting to be a few minutes. they spoke for two hours. and reagan was huge i impressed with her. thatcher was hugely impressed with reagan. they were kin dried spirits. as the relationship built upon
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trust upon 100% loyalty to each other through the special relationship. that's why it really worked so successfully. behind the scenes, of course, margaret was a tremendously hard worker. and all of her achievements were underscored by a tremendous work ethic which she gained working in her father's grocery shop. she used to sleep just five hours a night. she used to read through policy papers in tremendous details. she would be up later than anyone among her personal staff. she was someone who prepared for every speech she gave. i saw it myself. she would prepare for speeches hours on end in order ensure they were fantastic speeches
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that would stand the test of time. so she demonstrated that to be a truly successful leader. you have to prepare and you have to work very, very hard. and, you know, that's not the case for a lot of politicians today, i have to say. her speeches, i think, were some of the greatest speeches ever given by a british politician. she was wonderful and like reagan, she was able to translate extremely complex issues in to simple messages which could be understood by vast numbers of ordinary voters. margaret thatcher like reagan very clear cut. often simp message that voters could understand. she wasn't -- [inaudible] she was one for straight talking
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and believed in getting her message across clearly. i would refer you to two or three her greatest speeches including the '76 speech "the iron lady" speech. and throughout her life, thatcher was driven by a sense of patriotism. a sense she was working with destiny and serving a higher purpose. much like church him in this respect. patriotism was at the heart of her message. every speech projected tremendous love of her country. every word she uttered in speeches were genuine based upon a heart-felt love for her country. you wouldn't find her, for example, apologizing for a country. she only had the out most sense
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of pride in her country. she was determined to save her great nation from decline. i would like to quote a speech she gave to the general assembly of the church of scotland. she said, there's little hope for democracy. the hearts of men and women in democratic society cannot be touched by something greater than themselves. and margaret thatcher felt she was put on earth for a reason. for a mission. and that was to save britain, defeat communism,ed advance the call of the freedom and liberty across the world. she accomplished that, i think, in states. i would like to conclude just by addressing the question. what can american conservatives learn from thatcher? what must they learn from the iron lady? i think most importantedly, thatcher rejected the idea you
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have to water down your political message and conservative principle to win elections. she won three general elections in a tremendously hostile environment. with a media that was relentlessly hostile to her. she won not by comprise. but by sticking to the core principle moving to the center ground doesn't necessarily bring you success. thatcher argued if voters want to vote left-wing liberals they're going vote for the right-wing not a conservative neater is dressed up. as a centrist or left of center organization. i think that's a very important message for politicians heeds on both side of the atlantic.
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if so you a passion for politics, if you really a passion for liberty, you cannot accept the idea of always cutting deals with your political opponents. and thing is always -- never ignore the grassroots of a conservative movement. she always made conservative voters feel they belonged to the conservative party. and that, again, is a critically important message for the conservative britain, for the republicans here in the united states. again, she always em evaluate -- elevated the grassroots to primary importance. she also offered a relentlessly optimistic vision of britain's future.
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she gave a message that was one of aspiration, one of tremendous hope in britain's future. i think voters really liked that. she wasn't a negative campaigner. she never implored british voters, for example, to seek revenge at the ballot box. that wasn't her style. she wasn't in toes clay warfare. she believed in uniting all classes together regardless of income. i would like to close, actually, from the following words from margaret thatcher delivered in 1988, we believe that individuals have a right to liberty. no state can take away. that government can -- [inaudible] of the people not its master. that the rom of government is to strengthen our freedom not deny it. that the economic roll of government is to establish a climate in which surprise can flour flourish.
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i would like to conclude on that note. thank you very much. [applause] i would like to welcome on to the stage for some brief remarks my friend and colleague stephen thompson and coauthor. he's a veteran congressional politics in washington over many decades. he's worked in the republican national convention for the joint economic committee and the department of labor. stephen was educate at the university of california and ph.d. from cambridge. as an oxford graduate, i won't hold that against him. [laughter] i would like to welcome stephen to the stage. [applause] thank you, nile. you said lady t was a hard act
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to follow. you are too. she was the biggest influence in my life. i lived in britain from 1981 to 1989 and '92 to '3eu89. she was prime minister for two years when i arrived. leader of the conservative party since 1975. and as shown in the video, now described the '70s were dreadful in britain. the country was close to bankruptcy. bureaucrats in the international monetary fund essentially ran the country. the entire decade was plagued with now called the british disease. three decades of socialism. they believed they could control the means of production. economic policy was guided by the theory of john matt cainer king you can spend, tax, run deficit and debt and no effect
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for the economy. but reality set in by the late '70s and early '80s the confidential -- this was read by margaret thatcher and others wrote over the past ten years prices have risen by 275%. and money incomes by 335%. the real output only by 16%. the british had to borrow tax and inflate, that is beg, borrow, and steal, really. to get by. when lady thatcher moved in may of '89 she inherited a disaster. i have a secret to reveal. when i first went to britain i
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was still a -- one of the first places i visited in london was actually his old house. now part of the university of london. i first learned economics from the famous textbook. i don't know if they don't use it today. if they didn't, it would be good. it was a gateway which many in my generation -- we were taught that government could manage the economy and promote economic growth. however, when i arrive in the britain i soon realized that many of the teachings were disaster when applied to the real world. for example, to control inflation they advocated an income policy that waninger price control. in other words the government could tell you what you can make and charge. there was no thought of controlling the money supply. the idea was to control the
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economic freedom. so when the government tried to impose wage restrain, control prices, the unions and socialists simpletly take to the street, shut down the government and economy, engage in whole sail strike mob violence to stop the government cutting spending or controlling income. you didn't find it in the textbook be you did on the british street. many people were fed up with socialism and wanted a better way of life. she appealed to british patriotism. britain was a great country, she reminded voters. and the british didn't have to live like with union leaders and socialists denying them a basic necessary -- necessities of life through strikes and other measures. and more importantly she
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believed socialism wasn't part of the british character and millions of people rejected at the ballot box if shown an alternative. by 1990 she succeeded where other pressure leaders had clearly failed. now talked about tax rate -- she reduced the state-owned economy by 60%. this is hand to believe today in america. which is moving in the opposite direction. and our country is in turmoil over the closing of something like the 17% of the government. britain was close to hyper inflation. the only country in the developed world. 25% inflation rates. she always believed that
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inflation was attack not only economic values but moral values. because it eroded to save and invest. she brought down the inflation rate in the summer of '86. nile and others mentioned the unions. many have been infiltrated by communistsed at the time. but that thatcher confronted them and brought them under the rule of law. after the coal might beers strike in 1984 thatcher successfully ended after struggle, the number of strike days dropped dramatically. she'll be remembered that a conservative -- said in 18976 no government in britain can hope to succeed today without the good will of the unions.
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this view is not shared by lady thatcher who said the interview in 1979 by god, i'll confront them. and by god, she did. the hard leader of the miners union never knew what hit him and never recovered. resulting in the accomplishment was the british economy began to flourished. i was enthusiastic about the success of thatcher. my life was improving along with the british while i lived there. but it wasn't just a booming economy that lead me to become a thatcher fan. there were far more fundamental reasons. first, unlike a lot of politicians thatcher was principle had core conviction and never waiverred. i liked this immediately. for those of us that worked in politic it is may come as a
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shock but some politician will say one thing and do another. for example, if you like your insurance, you can keep it. [laughter] not thatcher. you can bap on what she said. she risked defeat, and believed she was acting in the best interest of britain. the sign of a true patriot. more importantingly, she delivered on her promises and british voters rewarded her by now said by three elections in a row. secondly, when i arrived in britain it became apparent there have no alternative to thatcher. she demonstrated to me the class of economic principles in 19th century mocked by the textbook and others and socialism didn't work. this began with the imf bailout
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and extended to some in the european community. thatcherrism was about british politic and doing the heavy lifting themselves. even worse, her opponent were advocating doing nothing or even more socialism. some surrounding sovereignty to europe. as an american i found it repugnant. third, i learned from thatcher that the enemy of economic prosperity and freedom in the 1970 and '80s was socialism. and it still is, by the way. whether it was in the soviet union or britain. she said in 2002 it was no coincidence in the 1986 the soviet union was mention -- flexing muscles all over the world when the soviet were at the height.
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is once said the british people don't like being pushed around. as president obama with is finding with the affordable care act, neither do americans. we cherish freedom. i found in britain that the left and many conservatives that opposed thatcher were fundamentally antiamerican. in watergate and stronger patriot and a believer in british and american greatness. the last time i spoke to lady thatcher, and i didn't know her as well as my coauthor, was
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actually in the house cannon office building. she had dedicated a painting of her and ronald reagan. so i talked to her after wards, briefly, and i just said i met her a few years earlier in parliament. and lived in britain for almost 12 years and was a student there. she turned to me in the quizzical way of looking at you. she said you lived in britain when i was prime minister and you never came to visit me? [laughter] four younger conservatives in the audience today, your role will be like thatcher. you have to clean up the mess today. the united is not headed in a good direction and fall upon your shoulders to clean up this mess. but you can take heart somebody did it before. it can be done. i advise you to read about her, study her papers, go her
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foundation westbound -- website, read her speeches. above all, go visit margaret thatcher. thank you. [applause] >> we have a few minute for some questions. i'll take the liberty for answering the first one. we know there's a lot of discontent in -- we know that david cameron pledged a referendum in 2017 on britain's moip in the european union and what it decides is important to the united states. we know the administration has been -- to stay in the herb u. how should american conservatives view this issue? >> that's an excellent question, luke. and important question in britain today. it should be an important issue in washington as well.
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margaret thatcher believed that britain's future should lie outside the european union. she was convinced of this in her final years that britain should enjoy the fruits of freedom. and you can't be free when you are shackled to the european union. and i think it's very unfortunate that in recent months you see a number of interventions by senior u.s. officials, including by the white house itself. and numerous interventions by the new -- the previous u.s. ambassador to london. basically arguing or basically saying that it's an mesh's interest for britain to remain in the european union. it's provoked a backlash in the british press. there's a lot of outrage in the u.k. about what is perceived to be blatant interference, actually, by the u.s. government
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in the referendum debate issue in the united nations. a very sensitive issue in britain. and it's i think -- upon the obama administration. it's also completing the wrong message to be sending. i'm of the view that it's in america's interest for britain to be outside the european union. a free britain that is able to stand shoulder to shoulder with the united states that is not shackled to brussels is in the u.s. national interest. and i do think that the entire message being spent by washington at the moment to britain is completely the wrong message and also, of course, perceived by many british people as interference in an internal political debate. so on both expwoars -- score i think the administration is rather shot i.t. in the
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foot. >> you can raise your hand and the gentleman here. >> i'm with the heritage foundation. i want to ask -- [inaudible] now we have the domestic political problem really didn't want to modify the g.o.p. it wants to destroy it and maybe replace it. how the conservatives here primarily economic and national definitely conservatives respond to this without blowing either blowing cot legislation part or winding up with sort of problem mr. cameron has now he's got a collision government that has a lot of trouble functioning. >> we have what is going on now is a conservative renewal.
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the younger generation is coming in to the republican party. so we're going have these debates. people are going perhaps, say things they'll regret in later years. but they have the same in britain. lady thatcher challenged whose government was conservative government was a disaster characterized by huge you turn. she said it was socialist government in british history. it was a harsh and tough debate. but she won because she stated the certain principles and renewable happened because conservatives right now cannot avoid this. it's their delawares knit. they are going to inherit the mess. socialism works fine until we run out of other people's money. we should welcome the debate and not worry too much about the harsh rhetoric. >> the problem is they were
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arguing about the same thing economics. here you've got economic and national defense conservatives who are interested in one set of issues. and you have people own the other side who can only seem to think about abortion and birth control. where there is no connection between the two set of issues. it's two different world almost. >> any different than president reagan in the white house or had the republican party? we had the debate then too. we were able to resolve thing. i think we will in the future. >> just time for one. the gentleman in the back with the glasses. >> the heritage foundation. my question is what would lady thatcher think of -- [inaudible] >> yeah. the question is what would margaret thatcher think of the united nations independence party. which is currently polling at
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around 15% as high as 20% in some polls. in other polls down to 10%. but anyway 10 to 20%. the independence party is expected to do very well in the european elections next summer. some rejections say high as high as 30% of the vote may go to a u.k. independence party. it campaign for britain to leave the european union. it has strong emphasis against immigration issues. in term of your question, you know, i think the u.k. independence party if margaret thatcher was in power today. the u.k. independence party
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would probably be irrelevant. because thatcher would, today, be saying to the british people get out of the e.u. free yourselves from a huge burden on the british people and cost the british taxpayer a great deal of money. why let the bureaucrats in brussels tell the wish people what to do? and so i think the u.k. independence party, which is heavily made up of -- not entirely but in large part a former conservative party members who left because they feel the party deserted them. i think if thatcher were in power there wouldn't be a u.k. inexpense party. she never spoke publicly about u.k. in the private conversations i had with her. she didn't talk about the u.k. independence party. but, you know, she would have
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created those who vote for the u.k. independence party with respect. she would not be sneering at them. as some leading figures in the conservative party have done. including the prime minister. and, you know, her view was that you want to appeal the voters. you want to get them to vote for you. you're not going get them to vote for you by condemning and taking them. which i think is part of the reason why, you know, the conservative party could well struggle in 2015. because so many conservative party members are vote for the u.k. independence party. so, you know, she never commented about it but no doubt about it. she would not be dismissing these voters or their concerns. and her message always in the conservative party has been that
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the conservative party needs to stick to its core principles. if you don't, people are going to abandon you and go elsewhere. thank you. [applause] thank you. this concludes our event today. remember, we are approaching the holiday season. there are books outside and you can go to thank you very much. [applause] [inaudible conversations] we would like to hear from you. tweet us your feedback
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and the package was admiring that and he said, i understand you also admired the -- yes, aren't they darling? he said you will make sure you have panda to go home with. it was important for her to support her husband. just her being there would bring so much good will. there was evidence at the end of the trip where the news reports come out. they talk about the president this way. they would always say what a wonderful job she did. first lady pat nixon. monday night live on c-span, c-span 3, and c-span radio and about every 40 years some foreign global power tried to come in and dominate the afghan scene and control it and use it
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for it own purposes. there have been periods of afghan history when the rulers of afghanistan have taken advantage of the geographic call position of afghanistan to play a sort of neutrality card using the favoritism toward one global power, playing that against the possibility of leading toward the other global power to keep both of them somewhat at bay. this has been the diplomatic strategy of successful afghan rulers whenever there have been any. the cold war, for example, was a notable period. the ussr and the u.s. were interested in afghanistan. they were competing to enlarge their influence in the country. somehow because the counter balancing of the two forces there was a period when afghans were sort of in control of their own destiny. during that period, you saw modernization and change in
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afghanistan that was more rapid and more sort of dramatic than you have seen anywhere, you know, in this country. that period ended when the pendulum of trying to swing back and 0 forth between the inner afghanistan and the outer world started to swing so fast and far it finally crashed and the country succumbed to a cue of small communism group which was involved by the soviet innovation. i contend from that day to this we are still in the aftermath and aftereffect of the soviet union. it pretty much destroyed the fabric of the country. the 6 million refugee that drove out of the country, the direction of the -- destruction of the villages. the tearing apart of the triable structure and the creation of a state of war in which, you know, the old traditional afghan
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systems for generating leadership gave away to a new system in that state of chaos if you had a gun and you were good with it. you were probably going end up being an important guy. so that, you know, brought it to being a whole another class of afghan leaders who are commanders. now they call them war lords. and that entered. when the soviets left, those guys started featuring eight oche err theyer to the cities apart. in the wake of that came the taliban. now we are in the country. i think i think we have come in with something of the same idea the soviets had, which was this is a primitive country in a lot of trouble. and if we can restore everything and produce material benefits for the people, they will be grateful and come over to our side. there's more to it than that,
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however. afghans are interested in material benefits like anyone. there's a question of the reconstruction of the afghan institutions, the society, the salt, the family structure and the reconciliation of all contending factor on the african seat. this taliban business is not completely separate from the contentions within afghan society over dominating the identity of afghanistan. you can watch this and over programs at several dallas police officers ran up the grassy knoll. the first officer a fellow named joe marshall smith had the gun
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drawn. he expected to find an armed gunman. he encountered a man who was asked who he was and presented secret service credentials. smith was familiar with the secret service credential. they were often in dallas for one reason or the other. two officers reported the same thing. apparently there was more than one with secret service credential on thes grassy knoll. the secret service and the warren commission and everyone else looked at it identified the lo i guess indication no one was there. automatic of the secret service officer were taught to go with their protectee. they went to the hospital with the president and then the vice president -- soon to be president johnson. who were these people with secret service credential that no one can identify? i don't have an an. i have explained in the book. i have stuck to the facts. people can make up their own mind.
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.. i have a book coming out in january called anders brain. it's another novel different than anything i've done before
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it. >> you tend to use historical fiction. >> i always object to the modification of novel, the historical novel. my definition of a historical novel is a novel that makes literary history but anders brain is quite contemporary and i always operate under the admonition of the poet who said make it new. that is what i always try to do. >> are you excited to be here tonight? >> it's good fun. >> have you attended this dinner before? >> yes i have won a national book award. >> for which book? >> four worlds fair about 25 years ago. anyway. >> something that some people may not know about you is that you are named after edgar allan poe? >> that is the family story. i think it's probably true. my father liked poe's work and he liked --
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like a lot of bad writers. >> e.l. doctorow thanks for spending a few minutes with book tv. >> my pleasure. >> george packer is a finalist. >> can you spend a minute with us? >> i spent an hour with brian lamb. >> yes you did on a q&a program and we are covering you in miami as well. you will be live on booktv this weekend but you are one of the finalists in the nonfiction category. is this the first time you have been nominated? >> yes, it is. it's tremendous. it's an honor. the readings were last night and we all listened to each other from across the four categories and the quality was just incredibly high.
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everyone had three or four minutes. they didn't have much time to get across the field of your work but it was incredibly impressive and i felt honored to be in that company. >> which story did you tell? >> i read a passage in which one of the main characters dean price is thinking about the landscape of his home the piedmont region of north carolina and what has happened to it recently. he has a kind of -- he is sitting on his front porch at night with a glass of jack daniels and listening to the trucks go by. he knows some of them are full of chickens headed to the slaughterhouses which happens in the dead of night and begins to think about where those chickens go and coming back to the bojangles that he owns and sells the meat to its customers. it's an elaborate and kind of dark picture of an economy of fast food and imported oil and
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people getting poorer in this part of the country. >> george packer do you see what's going on in the country today economic weight as different from other transformations that we have had in our nation? e. yes. with an exception. the analogy with each of to the early 1900s when we had fast inequality of wealth. we had a handful of robber barons at the top consolidating immense wealth and also of power and then we had a lot of new immigrants who were struggling to survive. 50 years of what i call the roosevelt republican which middle-class people began to get ahead. it started to come undone in the late 70's and now we are back to something like that fast inequality of the early 20th century without some of the protections and some of the
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bases for equal opportunity that we put in place so in a way to repetition but it feels new and that there is not the energy and the vision of transformation that led to the progressive movement and the new deal back then. now everyone feels sort of isolated in their own troubles and trying to find solutions for themselves. there is a national movement and that's what makes this more troubling time i think. >> three out of the five nonfiction finalist new yorker staff writer. >> pretty good and i think david redneck is feeling happy tonight and also feeling incredibly impartial. it's a tribute to what he has done with the magazine and what kind of talent there is across-the-board of "the new yorker", not just the three of us but across-the-board. [inaudible conversations]
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>> now joining us is another finalist in the nonfiction category. this is sub five who is a professor of history at claremont mckenna college in california and the author of "hitler's furies". wendy lower when did you get the idea or where did you get the idea about writing about women in the third reich? >> i got the idea in the archives. i didn't go on a specific search for women in the not see so killing fields in eastern europe. i was in the archives and found documentation on them and that was the beginning of this book in the summer of 1992. i ended up over the course of 20 years or so working on the holocaust research collecting more documentation from all over europe and israel in north america and across the state of washington. i had enough material to do this but projects of 13 biographies of women from all different walks of life who found themselves in these horrific settings in eastern europe and responded in a variety of ways. >> reese surprised at what you
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found? >> over the time is the collected stories especially the wartime investigations was really shocked at what they did and they did these things on their own without following official orders and that to me was quite astounding and disturbing, yes. >> how did you find out you were nominated? >> sorry? >> how did you find out you were nominated for the national book awards? >> i got a phonecall. i had just come back from a book tour and i got a phonecall from my editor and my agent because when it was announced on morning joe i was in los angeles and that was at 5:00 in the morning my time. i decided no, it's such incredible news. i am still kind of high if i can say that. i feel this incredible excitement about this and being part of this in being with these authors, peoples who work i
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admire so deeply and i'm here with them tonight at this event. it's such a privilege in such an honor so grateful to the national book foundation for recognizing my work in putting me in touch with all these incredible writers. >> your representing the west coast tonight. >> i guess so, yeah i am area that's right. george packer i think spent time on the west coast and moved there for a while but i flew from there yesterday. a little jet lag but still standing. >> wendy lower one of the five finalists for the book or this evening. can you hold up the middle for us so we came see it up close a little bit? >> i received this medal last night. we had a ceremony and we received these lovely gift bags from lavender and they wrote a beautiful citation. the judges crafted a beautiful beautiful citation in the certificates i'm going to proudly display that in my office when i get back to claremont mckenna college.
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>> wendy lower thank you for spending a few minutes with us on booktv and good luck tonight. >> thank you. >> all right, thank you. >> how are you? >> thanks for joining us on booktv. "going clear." first of all where did you get the tidal? >> it's a term from scientology. hubbard who was the founder of scientology came up with is concept that if you could purge one side of your mind of all the neuroses and fears and so on through scientology would become clear. in other words he would be kind of superhuman. you would no longer get colds in your intelligence would be higher and you know live forever it was an interesting concept but there weren't -- to prove his case. >> how much time did you spend on the book in what was it like researching the church of scientology? >> you know it was really
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difficult because there were a lot of people that were quite frightened. they were afraid of punishment by the church or afraid of losing family members who would never talk to them again and something i had never run into like this before, so many key people had signed on -- nondisclosure agreements with the church legally obligated not to talk, millions of millions of dollars to talk to me. many people who had never spoken before actually confided their stories to me. i was really grateful for that but it was wrenching. >> wise it at the church of scientology has such a foothold in hollywood? >> it was set up in hollywood. it was designed to be a church for celebrities who in turn would sell the church to other people and they sought out celebrities early on. they had a list of marlena dietrich, walt disney and bob
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hope, some of the most famous people in the world and they did have movie stars in the church than they used them as pitchman for their religion in the same way that wheaties puts sports stars on their cereal box. it was a very sage advertising tactic for them. >> do you ever fear for your safety working on this book? >> i don't like to think about those things in my last book was about al qaeda. i think if al qaeda forgot -- it would be a dangerous organization. >> lawrence wright is another staff writer for "the new yorker." three of the finalists. >> is a testament to the fact that magazine still has the resources to give writers a chance. >> congratulations. >> thanks again. >> joining us now on booktv is a very familiar face and that is maya angelou.
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ms. angelou what he think about getting this lifetime achievement awards? >> is a wonderful treat. it's a blessing and i'm grateful for it. the important thing is to stay in an attitude of gratitude and that is what i am. i am just grateful that writers also think i'm worthy of it. >> how often do you get letters from people around the country who just want to write to you and talk to you? >> well, i realize that now i have some, what do they call it? a group of people who like me a lot. >> groupies. >> yes, i do. and now i have a lot of people people -- well i have, what do you call
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it? i was told once if i could get a million people on facebook. i now have 4 million 700,000. >> people who follow you on facebook. >> it's a blessing. >> congratulations. are you still writing? >> of course. i don't know what else to do. i mean if i knew anything else i would do it but i'm a writer. i'm a teacher who can write. >> the room is starting to fill up a little bit and we have got another finalists here that we want to talk to. in the nonfiction category. representing the commonwealth of virginia and the university of virginia is alan taylor four and first of all congratulations on your nomination for the internal
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enemy. where did you come up with the name? >> this was a term that virginians in the early republic used to describe their slaves particularly when they felt threatened by foreign invasion as they did during the american revolution and again during the war of 1812 and i would comment that they faced to great enemies. it was a very different way of thinking about slavery and we are used to encountering. we are used to thinking that southerners thought of slavery as a positive good in at in the early republic they knew their slaves didn't want to be slaves. they wanted to be free so they feared there would be the day when they would rise up in rebellion and kill their masters to claim their freedom. >> and the subtitle your specific about the years you're covering. first of all what are the years and why are you so specific? >> at 1772 to 1832 so there are two very important events. something called the somerset decision, a legal decision in
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england which declared slavery was not supported by law in england. this alarmed many americans including the leaders of the american revolution and it helped to hasten the american revolution because so many people with slaves feared if they remained within the british empire they would be ruled by people who are not sympathetic to the slave system. in 1832, that is when we had nat turner's rebellion in 1831 and january of 1832 there's a very important debate in the virginia hall of delegates about whether or not to adopt a program of gradual emancipation. after a very thorough debate this was shot down and never again would virginians debate whether or not to have a program for emancipating their slaves. instead there would be a civil war over the issue. >> alan taylor who is your publisher and did you know they have submitted your book for the national book awards? >> it's w.w. norton & company and they did know that they
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nominated me. i found out i had made a long list which is 10 for nonfiction and then i was pleasantly surprised when i made it to the next final fight. >> who called you? >> i actually got an e-mail, several e-mails. >> have you enjoyed the festivities this week in new york city? >> this has been a great thrill. i've never been involved with the national book awards and everybody has been wonderful. it's very exciting to be part of it. >> good luck tonight. >> thank you very much. >> i think this'll be the fourth finalist in the nonfiction category that we want to talk to. if you are watching booktv last weekend you saw jill lepore in philadelphia talking about jane franklin. jill lepore did you stumble on j. frankel?
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>> i was reading benjamin franklin's published papers which are bound in fortysomething flames and you can go to any library and pull them off the shelf one after the other. he is so fun to read. he is such good company. he is so sneaky and charming but every other letter he wrote was to his sister, jane and i had never heard of her. i was just mystified. how could anybody possibly understand this man who ran away from home when he was very young and the letter he wrote to -- on his deathbed was to his sister. i did stumble upon them and when i first read a route about her i was so in just an understanding about him but then i thought she is far more interesting because we know so little about the lives of ordinary people. >> how ordinary was her life? >> franklin story he tells it as an allegory of the rags to riches. her lifeless rags to rags and that is an allegory for everybody else's life.
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certainly the 18th century it was very unusual to climb up the social ladder the way franklin did born the son of a poor candle maker and ends up this statesman. jane married at 15 and had 12 children and nearly all of them died before she did. she raised her grandchildren and her great grandchildren and many of them died before she did. it was an unusual life that she lasted so long that the law she endured was quite ordinary. >> jill lepore were there any portraits of jane franklin? did she get any of her brothers money or did anything come her way? e. she had many types of joy in her life. she was never wealthy. franken took good care of her in this really incredibly sweet way when they were very old. he arranges to have firewood sent to her every weekend and if you are poor in the 18th century in boston the first thing you're going to suffer so cold in winter.
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they had this very -- what she cherished were books. she read all of her life and she was a voracious reader. you would think raising 12 children you would have a hard time reading the newspaper. she read the newspaper every day. she read locke and newton. she read almost everything benjamin franklin wrote. think what an education would have been in 18th century to read franklin. >> in a different time, let me rephrase this. did she have the intellect of ben franklin? >> gosh you know franklin once said one of his proverbs genius without education is like silver in the mind. you can't know. the kind of -- 18th century girls were not taught to ride in it was unusual for a girl to know how to write. she only learned how to write because it brother taught her. that is the only reason we know so much about her life but she didn't write with the facility that he wrote or the training he
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eventually gave himself did. you really can't know. how do you measure the size of the mind that is trapped in a literacy really? it's a great question. it's one historians can answer. >> jill lepore from harvard and "the new yorker," the her new yorker staff writer to be nominated this year in the nonfiction category. thanks for joining us on booktv and congratulations. those are the five finalists in the nonfiction category, jill lepore wendy lower alan taylor george packer and lawrence wright. a little taste of each one of them here at the national book awards. [inaudible conversations] see somebody else want to introduce you to this evening at the national awards as the chairman of the national book addition david steinberger. what is the national book
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foundation and its association with the nba? >> the mission is to encourage the reading of great books and increase the impact of great books on the culture and the biggest thing we do are the national book awards themselves. this is a the 64th annual national book awards. bigger and better than ever this year. >> what is your day job? >> i am the ceo of perseus book group's. >> do you have any finalist? >> we don't but i'm just as excited as if we did. the books are exciting and it's an exciting evening. >> the numbers came out but it seems that e-books have dropped quite a bit this year. >> right. there's a big change this year which is that we have seen the flattening of the e-books and we are really seeing a market in which people are making a choice. summer reading it digitally and summer reading in print and some in bach but print books are going to be here for a long time and represent the vast majority
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of purchases. >> david samberg are if you are the winner of the national book award is that pumps sales? >> it's a very good deal, yeah. philip roth won the award for his first novel goodbye columbus and we all know what happened to philip roth's career after that. >> thomas hinshaw is nominated for his newest fiction. any chance he is here tonight? >> if you see him, let me know. the thing that is interesting is if he wins it will be the second time. he won for gravity's rainbow. you are really in a very select group. updike has won twice in roth has won twice john schieffer and saul bellow, just a handful of people who have accomplished that. >> david thank you for spending time with this. the ceo of perseus and chairman of the national book foundation. >> thanks so much for having me.
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>> what do you think about this? >> i'm so excited my assistant is abutting writer and she's so excited to be here and nearly fainted when she found out i was introducing toni morrison and by angelou. >> what are you the most excited about? >> as a whole i come here a few times with my cohost and it's so exciting to see books celebrated in all kinds of books, e-books and every type of book and the way they make them in to see the industry still flourishing in a very tough market is great. my cohost has a book out right now called the right path so we have been on book tour for the past two weeks. i am in the mood. >> you were an author too and you have been on book tv as well. >> i have three books out now and i'm talking with david steinberger about a companion book to knowing your value which
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is my second book which is great for women. we are looking for a knowing your value millennium edition so hopefully i'll be back next year. ♪ >> ladies and gendelman -- [inaudible] mika brzezinski. ♪ >> good evening. how is everyone tonight? beautiful. i am make a brzezinski, cohost of morning joe and i am deeply honored to be here tonight. i am also very excited to say this to you uninterrupted. welcome to the 64th national book awards. i got through it. it's the oscars of the book world or as fran leibowitz once called them the oscars without money.
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that we will take them. so i have a very close connection to this evenings awards. just last month we have the honor of having david steinberger the chairman of the national book and done nation on our show on morning joe to announce the national book foundation finalists. as a three-time author myself i know first-hand what an incredible undertaking it is to write it look and the nightmare scenario that it poses some members of the family. i am so impressed by tonight honorees, nominees. on morning joe we are very proud to give authors the platte on to discuss their work and the morning joe buck bounce which is fantastic on amazon. we have even started it a club for nonfiction reading and we hope to have a lot of finalists on the show very soon. as we gather this year, there's a lot of news and speculation in
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the book world. random house and penguin merged this year and when they did there was a lot of hope especially in the alternative rock world that the new company would he called random penguins. they decided to call it penguin random house but looking around the room i have seen a lot of writers stuffed in these tuxedos and they maybe should have called at random penguins. just saying. he look handsome. the giants of the digital book industry are here tonight. barnes & noble amazon kobo apple and it's been another banner year for digital books with the exception of any e-books that had to be downloaded by low blow. in fact i just heard that president obama was shopping in
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new book called how to work with congress and it will be eligible for next year's fiction category. it hurts so badly. we are here tonight to celebrate writers and readers and every one of you in the industry who bring them together and the excellent work that you all do. as a reader and a writer i applaud all your hard work, whether it's looks on paper for pixels or anything else. books still make the world interesting and exciting and wonderful and where would our world be without them? so, since this is an awards program celebrating the best books of the year let's move right on into it. i come from the world of morning joe but morning joe is not here so we are going to be on time tonight. we are not going to be interrupted and we are not going to go along.
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we are going to keep our awards program running on time. i have to be up at 3:00 a.m. so i will be at the forefront of this. let's begin. 2% the literary award for outstanding service to the american literary community, we have tonight toni morrison. [applause] toni morrison needs no introduction. i will try this. one of the greatest novelists in american history, winner of the nobel prize in literature, recipient of the presidential medal of freedom, recipient of the national book foundation's medal for distinguished contribution to american letters and host of other honors. it gives me great pleasure to welcome toni morrison. [applause] ♪ ♪
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♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ >> thank you. [applause] did you see me walk? you don't appreciate it because you haven't been in a wheelchair like i have for a long time. but this is important to me and i've really do like it.
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it is great and it's a personal pleasure to honor a friend, an artist and a legend. when i sat down to gather my thoughts about what i could say about maya angelou the first one was the fact that in spite of her surely outrageous talents, she does not summon andy that routine jealousy and put down the artists as famous as she are accustomed to. instead, maya angelou conspires delight as well as off. her reputation sparkles.
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elegance, generosity, humor, strength, clean honesty, compassion and dare i say wisdom my son died one christmas and the very first nonfamily voice i heard on the phone was maya, with that unmistakable voice of sheer level. i can't omit the pleasure of her company, with so much toxicity around in this world, the celebratory social life of her friends and colleagues is it blessing. and trust me, maya can cook.
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i knew her at random house where she published her first book, "i know why the caged bird sings." it was immensely popular of course but more than that, it had breath and meaning. i don't recall any woman writer more insightful or more courageous, describing her life. and equally important it gave license to a host of other african-american writers. it opened the door to our inside, our interior minus the white sanction. interestingly, its publication in 1969 neither begin nor
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completed maya's work. just think of this essay curriculum. journalist, writing for the arab observer and the may end times in 1960, 1961. playwright, screenwriter, film director. 1960, 1966, 1967, 19706. activist, coordinator and at the request of martin luther king for sclc, 1968 cooperation with malcolm x to go the organization for african-american unity in 1964. actress, roots, 1977, poetic
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justice 1993 john jen's the blacks, 1960 narrator brighter documentaries 68, 72, 75, 76, 82 and 1980. dancer, singer. dancing with alvin a. leigh student of pearl primus, 1954 and 58. yes, author of eight fees. 19692 this year, 2013. poet, 10 collections of poetry. 1971, 1995, professor, wake forest university, reynolds professor of american studies. i left out much. children's stories essays recordings and albums.
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maybe one or two of these accomplishments could account for the esteem in which maya angelou has held. but all of them? the list is truly humbling. despite of a child of the lens and obstacles that would break or paralyze many of us, suffering energized and strengthened her, and along with good counsel, determination and persistence, her creative impulse struck like olds of lightning. her example is not one of survival. it truly is one of triumphed. dr. maya angelou, you improve our world by drawing from us,
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forcing from us our better selves. thank you. [applause] ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪
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♪ [applause] old folks say it takes one to know one. [laughter] thank you my darling. toni morrison. it's a blessing. she is a blessing, and it's amazing, we have been sister friends all of these years and i'm grateful for her. i know that in truth, it takes one to know one and i am grateful. i know that toni is all of that
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and i know that you are, all of you literary folks, amazing. i mean amazing that you have chosen to give me a gift, to honor me and i am so pleased. it's amazing. i know that you are all writers and i am delighted that you have chosen to not only honor me but to ask ms. toni morrison to honor me and honor you, and that is who you are. there is an old statement, an old statement that says. ♪ when it looks like the sun. ♪ will not shine anymore. ♪
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god put a rainbow in the clouds. ♪ amazing. [applause] amazing. [applause] the statement was inspired by the statement in genesis. it says that the rain had persisted so unrelentingly that people thought it would never see so in an attempt to put the people at ease, god put a rainbow in the sky. that is in genesis but in the 20th century -- i'm sorry the 19th century, some african-american poet,
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maybe a woman, i am not sure about that but she said god didn't just put a rainbow in the sky. god put a rainbow in the clouds. in the clouds. we know that suns and moons and stars give a elimination always in the sky. however, clouds can so persist that people can't see it change in the possibility, in the sky, in the clouds and here we are. here you are. amazing. you are rainbows in my clouds. see, it's a blessing that you have decided to be a rainbow in my cloud.
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that you have decided, whether i deserved it or not, you have decided to honor me and i am grateful to you. i am grateful to toni morrison. i am grateful to bob loomis, my editor. [applause] for over 40 years, over 40 years, imagine it. i have tried to tell the truth as i understand it in prose. and amazingly, i don't know. i know that there is a difficulty in trying to write prose. i know that you know all of that
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and you are smarter than many of us here. i know that you know all of that however, there is a possibility that when you use a few nouns and pronouns and some incredible poetry -- you'd know what it means. it's very hard. i think you know that easy reading is damned hard writing. [laughter] but you know all of that because you are literary folks send you know that. i have been trying to tell the truth as far as i understand it. i didn't try to tell everything i know. [laughter] but i have tried to tell the truth and you have honored me this evening.
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i am so grateful. i am so appreciative. my sons and daughters and some of them are black and white and asian and spanish speaking in native american and and straight [applause] but i have tried to tell the truth. you have honored me. i can't say it enough to say thank you and i thank you. i think toni morrison and i thank you for realizing how important she is. and how important we are to each other. people live in direct relation to the sheroes and heroes and i think you for honoring me. thank you. [applause] ♪
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♪ ♪ ♪ [applause] ♪ >> wow. and now 2% the medal for distinguished contribution to american letters is victor novosti. he is one of american journalism's great treasures. longtime editor and publisher of the nation, he is author of six books including the national book award-winning naming names. he is delacorte festered magazines at columbia university's graduate school of journalism, director of the george t. tell it arts center
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and chairman of the columbia journalism review. it gives me great leisure to introduce fake turn of ascii. [applause] ♪ >> i'm floating on maya angelou's cloud. i love that and let me say when i was asked to introduce my good friend e.l. doctorow this evening i was honored to be asked and said yes because i have such admiration for his books, his plays and his other writings, his short stories but on reflection it has occurred to me that edgar has won more awards than our good for him. [laughter]
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among them the national book award, the saul bellow award for achievement and american fictios medal bestowed by president clinton in 1988 and a gold medal bestowed by the american academy of arts and letters. i thought that he should be home instead of spending his time going to evenings like this, he you should be home writing his novels and short stories better than be out accepting yet another award this evening. that would divert him from his more important work. so that was my second thought after the first thought of being on dirt to introduce him. then i remembered that nothing diverts him from his work. once my wife annie and i took a vacation with edgar and helen, the love of his life whom he
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calls captain tidy because she keeps cleaning up after him. we went to some island in the caribbean. those were the days before computers came along, so at 6:00 in the morning we would hear edgars typewriter clacking away. and i knew from the days when he worked as an editor-in-chief at dial press for his writers included among others norman mailer, james baldwin and william kennedy, that one should never call his home in new rochelle before 6:00 a.m., not because he would wake up edgar or helen or one of their three extraordinary children, but the coast you would disturb him in the middle of his work because he put into in two hours a day writing his novel before he got on the commuter train to new york to look -- to go to his day job.
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and it's not merely that as a writer he will always manage to find time to write, but rather than put these awards in a fancy display case, when he does take time off from his own writing as often as not he uses his residence chris dishes celebrity to advance the cause of the artist in society. for example when he testified before congress on behalf of the national endowment for the arts, he eloquently told congress why it would be a big mistake to condition new grants on a writers behaving themselves politically, which congress was then disposed to do. here is just some of what he had to say. this is a quote from edgar testifying before congress.
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and a legislative condition put on an artist's speech no matter how intemperate or moderate, no matter how intemperate or moderate or fake or specific, means you publish a dictionary with certain words deleted from the language. it means you layout a palette with certain colors struck from the spectrum. do you really want to do this because congress in its wisdom really believe that keeping words and blocking them out and are bracing portions of the tape is what is needed to save this republic is bad not only for artists but it's bad for us all. now you don't need me to talk to you about his extraordinary books and why they deserve this honor that he is receiving this evening, the book of daniel,
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ragtime, billy bathgate, homer and langley, it each of which -- and his other works, each of which is different from the last not to mention the next luck andrew's brain which if you'll excuse the expression blow your mind. but i will mention this first published fiction. it was called the beetle. i'm not sure how old he was when he wrote it. it was inspired not by ringto starr or john lennon or paul mccartney or but rather by kafka's metamorphosis. i mention it only because when he was asked about it many years later, he described it to an interviewer with typical modesty and ride wit is an active etymological self defamation,
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etymological self decimation -- self defamation, the beetle, kafka, he you got it. although this evening we celebrate edgars stories and plays you should know that he went to a kenyan college where he majored in philosophy and studied with the poet and new critic. this experience has not been lost on edgar. don't take my word for it but do read the essay he wrote for the nation called a citizen reads the constitution in which he considers this country's fundamental document as a critic would a literary test. in this case what he calls the sacred text of secular humanism, the constitution being the sacred texts of secular humanism, a people's texts.
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i don't know what if anything agarwal have to say this evening but i want to share with you the fact that some years ago, when he was asked if he would introduce, when i was asked i want to say to you that some years ago when he was asked by george plimpton, who interviewed him for one of paris review's famous interviews, he was asked asked -- he told the story about a befuddled woman who was interviewed at the 92nd st. y. and a befuddled woman got up there in the question period. her first question for docotorow from the floor was what made you write about the firestorm at dresden? docotorow politely informed her that she probably heard kurt
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vonnegut's slaughterhouse five and -- it been done so beautifully there was little reason for anyone else to try. the point here is docotorow's attitude. it leaves one only original territory to explore which is what he has done with all of his work. he has been asked if he has a reader in mind when he sits down to write and he has replied no, it's just a matter of language, of living in sentences. there is no room for the reader in your mind. you don't think of anything but the language you are in. edgar, i have news for you. you may not have us in mind that you are in a roomful of your grateful readers. edgar.
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[applause] ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ >> before coming here this evening, i thought to say something about what was lately on my mind and what is on all of
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our minds whether we know it or not. something that has swept your lives and take us up in ways that are useful and even spec secular but also worrisome. and so ubiquitous and looming lee present in everything we do. the way we communicate and take care of ourselves and find things out and looks to be entertained. well that would have to be the internet. so again i want to congratulate the short list of here this evening. the world wide web was conceived as a somewhat academic thing some years ago but its years of realization and development since the 80s has seemed to me the work of a moment. coming into being as an astronomical event, virtual
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world is a companion in orbital swing with our own. the stuff of substance not mountains and seas in deserts or melting icebergs but information every form of every kind transmitted for personal, governmental, commercial, educational, political. it is a companion world to create wealth, to educate, to bring news, to spy, to save lives, to make war. my odd sense of it is something that has to do with the population pudding itself easily into its arcane source as immigrants swearing fealty to a new world. the techies, the programmers, the webmasters, the security experts, the hackers. almost as if it appeared, as it
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appeared to be created that the people necessary to maintain it. and you wonder, or i wonder what if there was no internet? what would these people have done with their lives? it was as if they were worn for the virtual so promptly and efficiently that they bond with it, work out its to deduce its possibilities. this world affairs is a world of simulation, clearly evidenced by its language. nevermind that text is now a verb. or a search engine is not an engine. a platform is not a plot armed. a bookmark is not a book mark because an e-book is not a book. and a cookie is not a chocolate chip cookie. [laughter]
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a cloud of something that maybe somewhere in the sky although not there to produce whether and surfing is in the cavity with neither a surfboard nor waives to ride. so language has been stolen or more charitably metamorphosed and we in this room especially have to appreciate metaphor. we are the descendendescenden ts of writers who saw the sun as the chariot riding close to the sky. and yet, when was the last time hearing the word mouse that you thought of a small rodents? or heard the word web and thought of a spider? ralph waldo emerson said all that can be thought can be written. man is the faculty of reporting and the universe is the possibility of being reported.
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so emerson would appreciate internet. the universe is the possibility of being imported suggests endless subscription and infinite surprise. and he might emerson after drinker to think of global internet activity is the kind of oversoul. on my part i think less mystically oven over brain. you will find in the relevant wikipedia entry, yes wikipedia entry, the visualization of routing paths for a portion of the internet. what makes the picture uncanny is it might easily be mistaken for a cross-section of the brain ..


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